LINGUIST List 5.759

Wed 29 Jun 1994

FYI: Kurdish protest, linguistic human rights violations

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  1. Celso Alvarez Caccamo, Kurdish protest, linguistic human rights violations

Message 1: Kurdish protest, linguistic human rights violations

Date: Wed, 22 Jun 94 17:49:58 +0Kurdish protest, linguistic human rights violations
From: Celso Alvarez Caccamo <>
Subject: Kurdish protest, linguistic human rights violations

The following message is being forwarded from the ETHNO list,
where it was posted by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas <TOVESKSNOW.RUC.DK>.
Please direct all your comments, etc. to the above address.

Celso Alvarez-Caccamo
-----------------BEGINNING OF FORWARDED MESSAGE-----------------

Dear colleagues

Linguists and others working with language have a special
responsibility to react when linguistic human rights are being
violated. Basic linguistic human rights are being violated every
day in Turkey. Authors, researchers, poets, journalists and
others are in prison or are being tried by courts in Turkey just
because they have used the word "Kurd" or "Kurdish" or
"Kurdistan" in their writings, or have written about Kurdish folk
songs or contemporary Kurdish poetry or have investigated names
of flora and fauna that are based on Kurdish words (e.g. vulpes
vulpes Kurdistanicus), or have published a Kurdish grammar.
People are tried, often tortured, fined and sentenced because of
having given
speeches in Kurdish or having used the words "Kurd" and
"Kurdistan" in speeches or having talked about the Kurdish
question in other countries.

All this is seen as "separatist propaganda" which is criminalized
as a terrorist crime under the Turkish Penal Code and the recent
Anti-Terror Law (Law No. 3713, 1991). "Written and oral
propaganda and assemblies, meetings and demonstrations
aiming at damaging the indivisible unity of the State of the
Turkish Republic with its territory and nation are forbidden,
regardless of the method, intention and ideas behind it. Those
conducting such an activity are to be punished by a sentence of
between 2 and 5 years' imprisonment and a fine of between 50
million and 100 million Turkish pounds." (Article 8).

When we as researchers claim that the Kurds exist, and say, for
instance, that Kurdish children should have the right to be learn
to read and write their mother tongue, Kurdish, this could be
classified as a terrorist crime which we could be sentenced
for several years if we were Turkish citizens. Many of our
Kurdish (and some Turkish) colleagues are in prison for similar

We are asking you to join us in protesting against the grave
violations of basic linguistic human rights in Turkey and to ask
Turkey to grant its citizens freedom of expression in accordance
to the UN Charter of Human Rights, the UN Covenants on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights and the
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

If you are willing to use a few minutes of your time, please
extract the following
text, which contains a suggestion to a letter (which you can modify
to suit
your own style and purposes) to the Prime Minister (prof. Tansu
Ciller) and the
President (Sueleyman Demirel) of Turkey, together with their
addresses and fax numbers.
The letter protests against violations of linguistic human rights
in general and against the
prison sentences of 4 authors/researchers in particular.
If you (after having received the documentation, see below) decide
to fax
or mail a protest to Turkey, please send a copy to Tove Skutnabb-
Kangas (by e-mail of fax), for the archives of the International
Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan. We would also greatly
appreciate it if you were willing to forward this letter to all
the e-mail networks that you subscribe to which are concerned
with language and/or freedom of expression.

If you want to have more documentation before faxing the protest
please send an E-mail message to Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, address
TOVESKSNOW.RUC.DK) or Shelley Taylor (address
which of the following 2 background document files you would like
to have:

A. A short background document (47,635 bytes) containing quotations
of some of the present Turkish laws forbidding freedom of
expression and very short descriptions of some of the court
cases (from document B).

B. A longer background document (169,004 bytes) containing Chapter
"Freedom of opinion and information", from "Silence is killing
them. Annual Report 1993, On the situation of Human Rights in
Northern Kurdistan and the Kurds in Turkey", published by the
International Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan, and the
article "Killing a mother tongue - how the Kurds are deprived of
linguistic human rights" by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Sertac
Bucak, from the book "Linguistic Human Rights" (Mouton de
Gruyter: Berlin & New York, 1994, edited by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas
& Robert Phillipson, in collaboration with Mart Rannut).

Thank you in advance.

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Sertac Bucak, Shelley Taylor, Robert
and the Board of the International Association for the Study of
(Laura Balbo, Univ.of Ferrara; Avtar Brah, Univ.of London; Teun
van Dijk, Univ.of Amsterdam;
Philomena Essed, Univ.of Amsterdam; Ute Osterkamp, Freie Univ.
Berlin; Ann Phoenix, Univ.of
London; Nora Raethzel, Institut fuer Migrations- und
Rassismusforschung, Hamburg; Tove
Skutnabb-Kangas, Roskilde University; Carlota Sole, Univ.Autonoma
de Barcelona; Ruth Wodak,
Univ.Wien; John Wrench, Univ.of Warwick)

The Prime Minister of Turkey
Prof.Dr. Tansu Ciller
Office of the Prime Minister
06573, Ankara

Fax. 90 - 312 - 417 0476
 90 - 312 - 230 8896

The President of Turkey
Sueleyman Demirel
Office of the President
Devlet Baskanligi
06100 Ankara

fax 90 - 312 - 230 8896

Dear Prime Minister/President:

I write to you to express my concern for Dr.Ismail Besikci, Guenay
Aslan, Dr. Fikret Baskaya, Edip Polat and others who have exercised
their universal human right to freedom of expression and peacefully
disseminated their views in their speeches and writings, as a
result of which they have been sentenced to long terms of
imprisonment and large fines.

According to our reports, Dr. Ismail Besikci, Guenay Aslan, Dr.
Fikret Baskaya, Edip Polat and others were prosecuted because they
have written, published, and made speechs about the Kurds, for whom
they have advocated human rights. The Turkish legal system has
intervened to limit their freedom of expression and curtail their
liberty. Freedom of expression is not a privilege but a universal
human right defined in international law and which the state should

I call on you to recognize without delay the right to freedom of
speech, which is a fundamental requirement for the protection of
human rights and the basis of any democracy.

I urge you to release authors, journalists, publishers, artists,
academics and others who have exercised their right to freedom of
expression and have therefore been arrested and sentenced.

I urge you to abolish all limitations which deprive the Kurds of
their ethnic identity, including those on the Kurdish language,
culture and history and the education of children in their own
mother tongue.

I thank you for your attention and welcome your comments.


(signature)Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Roskilde University, Dept of Languages and
Culture, 3.2.4., PB 260, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark, phone 45-46-75 77
11/2376, fax 45-46-75 44 10, private: Troenninge Mose 3, DK-4420
Regstrup, Denmark, phone 45-53-46 44 12

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